The Human Side of War: Andrew Iarocci, Jack Granatstein, Thomas Weber, Denis Smyth – Nov 4th

All Proceeds from Ticket Sales Got to Restoration of The Soldiers' Tower

Four great Military Historians/Authors Read and Talk About The Human Side of War

In honour of Remembrance Day, University of Toronto Bookstore will honour the students, staff and faculty who were part of WWI and WWII by featuring four well known Canadian military authors Thursday, November 4 at 7:00 p.m. 

The event’s prominent Military Authors and Historians will read from their books, sign autographs and discuss the emotional and physical impact of war on soldiers, family friends and the community, especially in WWI and WWII.  Jack Granatstein will be discussing The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History, Andrew Iarocci will be reading from his book, The 1st Canadian Division at War, 1914 – 1915, Thomas Weber will read from his new book, Hitler’s First War and Denis Smyth will read the amazing story, Deadly Deception: The Real Story Behind Operation Mincemeat. Images and artifacts from the Soldiers’ Tower about the U of T Alumni will be on display.



WHAT: The Human Side of War Reading Series Event

WHERE: Great Hall, University of Toronto Bookstore, 214 College Street, Toronto, ON, M5T 3A1

WHEN: Thursday, November 4 at 7:00 p.m.  (Doors open at 6pm)

TICKETS: $15 for general admission and includes coffee and tea.  All proceeds from ticket sales go to The University of Toronto Soldiers’ Tower Visit or call 416-640-5829 for tickets.


Where in the World Were Carnarvon and Senegambia?

Place names change for many reasons (Berlin, Ontario became Kitchener during the First World War for patriotic reasons; Peking became Beijing to reflect the official Chinese dialect) and while we still remember and use many of the old names, many more have become obscure or entirely forgotten.

In Whatever Happened to Tanganyika: The Place Names That History Left Behind, Harry Campbell reminds us of dozens of these names that now only pop up in stamp collections, old atlases, or in our memories: from countries that changed their names postcolonially (Ceylon, Belgian Congo) to places with similar names scattered across the globe (Guinea, Georgetown), adding bits of history, conjecture, and humour along the way.

This is a light-hearted but informative book that is a lot of fun to read.  Being a map addict for many years, some of these stories were already familiar to me, but Campbell has added a few new examples to my corpus of useless knowledge.  For example, I knew about Memel, but “Neutral Moresnet” between Germany and Belgium was new to me.

An old song asks, “Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”  Campbell must agree, because Constantinople isn’t one of the place names he examines.  But there’s plenty of other great stories in this book, and with short chapters, it’s perfect to dive into at your leisure, and maybe impress your friends with the story behind The Islands of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins (maybe they’ve unknowlingly holidayed there).

* By the way, Carnarvon now goes by the Welsh spelling of Caernarfon, and Senegambia was, as you might expect, a combination of Senegal and Gambia, independent nations now, but tied together by geography and, for a brief period in the 1980s, politics.

Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays

Every year around this time we’re inundated with stories about conspicuous consumption, waste, and how Western society has forgotten the True Meaning of Christmas™.  In the United States “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day of the year, is too often accompanied by stories of fights breaking out over Tickle Me Elmo dolls or stampedes at department stores resulting in loss of life.

In Scroogenomics, Joel Waldfogel, an economist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, addresses these issues, but his arguments centre around the wastefulness of Christmas gift-giving from a purely economic point of view.  In his opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with spending billions every year on gifts, as long as we’re getting full value for our gift-giving.

Waldfogel’s argument centres around the economic notion of “value destruction”.  In the case of Santa Claus, Waldfogel argues that “his tornado of giving does a perennially poor job of matching stuff with people.”  When we make our own decisions about purchases, we do a pretty good job of matching value to our needs and desires, while “the process at Christmas… has givers shooting in the dark about what you like”.  This is the reason we regularly receive gifts that we would never purchase ourselves.  But someone paid $50 for a sweater that I’ll never wear, which decreases its actual value to near $0.  That, the author argues, is the true waste at Christmas-time.

It turns out that the United States is not even the worst offender when it comes to Christmas excess–it actually falls in the middle when adjusted for the percentage of income spent on holiday gifts.  Some of those Europeans who like to deride the U.S. for its excess are even worse!

It turns out–not that surprisingly–that grandma is worse than just about everyone at finding a gift that you’ll appreciate to the full value of its cost.  But it’s not her fault–she rarely sees you, doesn’t know you that well, and when she gives you a horrible gift, you lie and tell her you love it.  She doesn’t learn to be a better gift-giver because you allow her to believe she’s done a good job.  But she probably hasn’t: value destroyed.

Waldfogel advocates a couple of solutions since it’s socially painful to let grandma know that her gift was a waste of money: 1) encourage the use of gift cards, which allows  recipients to make their own decisions and maximize the value of the gift, and 2) expand the use of charity gift cards, which enable the recipient to donate the amount you’ve given to them to the charity of their choice, since studies show that we “would like to give more to charity, if only we had the money.”

Obsolete by Anna Jane Grossman

Obsolete, An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By is a neat little collection of anecdotes and short essays about the demise of everyday objects, ideas, and behaviours.

obsolete In this anthology we encounter witty odes to relics of bygone eras, such as that of the after-school special, milkmen, and the office Rolodex, and predictions of soon-to-be extinct phenomena (bald spots, apparently!).  The often sarcastic tone Grossman uses is a perfect foil to the nostaligic sentiments that typewriters and polaroid cameras typically evoke.

While the subjects in the book are at once familiar and surprising, the most interesting entry in the encyclopedia is, of course, on the subject of books.  Any booklover can identify with the shudder of panic that runs through them with news of a publishing house closing, an independent shutting its doors, or yet another volume of a feeble attempt at regurgitating a much loved classic with the inclusion of incorporeal beings (I’m looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  Admittedly, Grossman is mostly concerned with the switch from paper to electronic books, although she does quote some rather distressing statistics about just how few books people are reading these days, in any format.

I’m not convinced that Grossman is right about books becoming obsolete, although she’s definitely spot-on about bellhops, getting lost, short basketball shorts, and tonsillectomies (definition: “an operation that resulted in a strict diet of ice cream“).  For all our sakes, I hope she’s wrong, because without books, there would be no books like this one.

Come find a copy in our Trade Department.